Free The Stone: The Difference Between Clingstone and Freestone Peaches

I’m not sure about you but I count down the days to peach season each year. Something about these sweet, yet tart fruits just screams summertime. So at the first chance I get, I head over D’Amico’s Farm Stand in Closter, New Jersey and buy some fresh peaches. What I love about D’Amico’s is the fact that the owner of this 60-year family-run business, John D’Amico, only sources from small farms within a 200-mile radius of Closter. That means, most of his delicious, freshly picked fruits and vegetables come from south Jersey, which is at the heart of the Garden State. D’Amico’s has clingstone fruit until the summer reaches its apex of heat and then begins offering freestone. So, what’s the difference?

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Clingstone peaches from Southern Jersey at D’Amico’s farm stand in Closter, NJ

At first glance, there is no difference between a clingstone and freestone peach, both fuzzy and reddish-pink on the outside. On the inside, however, is where the difference lies. The best way to figure out if your peaches are clingstone or freestone is by slicing the peach down the middle and pulling it apart. If the pit falls out easily, it is freestone. If not, clingstone.

Clingstone peaches are those that when opened, the pit sticks to the pulpy flesh of the fruit. According to goodhousekeeping.com, these peaches are rarely sold in stores but are used mostly in canned fruit. Depending on the location of the peach farm, harvest season for clingstones can range from mid-May to early August. But use them as long as you can! Their large and juicy peach-ness can be used to make great jellies, jams, purees and fantastic summer dishes.

Freestone peaches, on the other hand, separate easily from the fruit. Although larger and less juicy in texture, they are still undeniably sweet. Again, depending on the grower, freestones can be harvested from mid-June to early October. Generally freestone peaches last later into the season than clingstone peaches. They are perfect for cooking because they slice easily and uniformly, making them well-suited to great pie recipes that will leave your guests’ mouths watering.

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One of the best things about summer is the availability of fresh peaches. So whether you enjoy peaches in purees or in pies, these yummy fruits are the perfect means for sweetening up your summer.

 

-Contributions made by Sam Donsky

Hoboken Farms: Small Town Sauce, Big Town Flavor

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Hoboken Farms Big Basil tomato basil sauce

Store-bought sauce can be a pretty contentious subject for fans of sauces with that just-made fresh flavor. I was one of those snobs, always stressing to squish San Marzano tomatoes in the can as a pot of salted water cooked pasta. I’d pull out the woody stems and toss the broken down tomato meat with fresh smashed garlic cloves sizzling in olive oil. That simmering concoction would meld as it cooked, was seasoned with salt and pepper and finished with torn fresh basil leaves and a drizzle of EVOO.

My work-life balance wasn’t in sync enough for homemade sauces to be on the menu and I always kept a few jarred options to resort to when the kids were lobbying for lasagna, pasta and a protein or chicken parm. I’d get complaints when I hadn’t sufficiently labored at the stove and produced a luxurious sauce that had flavor rich with the taste and aroma of freshly made tomato and basil sauce with the wonderful texture of those hand-swished tomato chunks. 

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Hoboken Farms sauce comes in three varieties (L to R): Big Red, Big Boss and Big Basil

When the folks at Hoboken Farms asked me to sample their three sauces–Big Red, their marinara sauce; Big Boss, their vodka sauce; and Big Basil, their tomato basil sauce– I agreed without expecting much. I had read the reviews and readied myself to see what all the fuss was about. 

I popped off the lid of the Big Basil sauce and took stock: wonderfully fresh aroma; great texture thanks to meaty tomato chunks; beautifully seasoned and full of fresh taste. These sauces are the real deal. They have the taste you’d expect from a chef that perfected marina, tomato basil and vodka sauces by simply relying on excellent quality ingredients prepared classically with minimal fuss.

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Big Basil sauce served over Tolerant Organic Red Lentil Penne

Here’s how I enjoyed Big Basil over Tolerant Organic Red Lentil Penne: talk about elevating the natural flavor of pasta! Hoboken Farms defies you to sauce your pasta  modestly the way you’d be served them in Italy. I flunked, happily and greedily over-saucing and enjoying every spoonful. 

Other ways I’d serve Hoboken Farms Big Basil or Big Red sauces:

– Spooned over a layer of pesto atop a grilled slice of sourdough or ciabatta

– Layered with plain Greek yogurt for a savory parfait that’s topped with minced celery and parsley for crunch 

– Spooned over zucchini noodles or baked potato

– Blended with summer veggies like squash and kale for a refreshing smoothie or chilled soup

– Stir a cup or more into bean or vegetable soup

– Baked on top of seasoned chicken cutlets or fillets of fish like char

You are only limited by your creativity with Hoboken Farms, a pantry essential for uncompromising sauce enthusiasts. 

Contributions made by Samantha (Sam) Donsky

Hash (Deconstructed) – Fall’s Hearty Breakfast of Champions

Deconstructed Hash - Crispy Rosti Potato Wedge with Sautee of Sausage and Veggies
Deconstructed Hash – Crispy Rosti Potato Wedge with Saute of Sausage and Veggies

My son was telling me the other day that his friend’s dad makes him hash to help him “bulk up.” For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, hash is a dish consisting of diced meat, potatoes and spices that are mixed together and then cooked either alone or with other ingredients such as onions. I thought this would be the perfect breakfast to make for my son, who does indeed need to bulk up for soccer season. It’s a hearty fall breakfast with the perfect combination of protein and carbohydrates for both athletes and breakfast lovers. But I didn’t want to create a traditional hash with a soft texture, so I grated the potatoes finely to approach the dish as a deconstructed hash, with potatoes in the guise of a Rosti (a large pancake sans eggs and added starch) which would provide a crispy exterior to balance the softer ingredients like sausage and sauteed veggies.

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First, wash and grate 8 Yukon gold potatoes. I have several graters I like, but the one in the picture is a combination mandoline and grater which produces matchstick and heftier shreds. What I like about Yukon gold potatoes is that they’re very versatile, keep their shape when cooked and have a slightly sweet taste. But any potato can be used depending on your taste preferences. (I’m even thinking about using a sweet potato or yam to create a sweeter Rosti…stay tuned.)

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After seasoning the potatoes with salt and pepper, I heated up a 12-inch non-stick pan, poured in some olive oil, and then added in the potatoes, patting them down to create an even surface.

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Here is a picture of a happy jumble of onions, red peppers, chicken apple sausage from Aidell’s, and sweet Italian sausage I was cooking in my trusty cast iron skillet. We like lots of flavor, so I seasoned liberally with salt, pepper and Frank’s hot sauce. Damn, I love that sauce!

If you have the right non-stick pan, with a rim at this angle, tossing the pancake over is pretty easy.

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After flipping the potato pancake, it should have turned a nice, golden brown color like this.  When the other side has turned brown, it is ready to serve.  Slice a portion size of your choice, serve it up with hash alongside and enjoy. Or, in my case, watch your son smile while he bulks up.

Branzino Made Easy

Plated branzino
Plated branzino

 

I love Branzino. It’s a sweet, delicately flavored fish from Greece that can be grilled, sauteed or roasted with minimal fuss. ShopFreshSeafood.com, the online seafood delivery company, recently sent a sampler package of Branzino and king salmon my way. It arrived smelling fresh and the Branzino was gutted and cleaned. All I needed to do was decide how I was going to prepare the beauties they sent me. The first night, I got out my large copper paella pan and heated it up, adding a couple tablespoons of olive oil and butter to the pan, tossing in a few smashed cloves of garlic and adding the patted dry fish which I had sprinkled with salt and pepper. I turned the fish only when it was nicely browned (about 7 minutes) and let it go another 7 minutes, deglazing the pan with 1/3 cup of a dry white wine, the juice of a lemon, a fistful of roughly chopped parsley and a tablespoon of capers. I removed the fish, let the sauce bubble away for another minute, and then poured that over the top. Perfection.

The next day, I had a bit less time when dinner hour rolled around. I needed to consolidate steps for my hungry crew and got my veggie sides going while I turned on my oven to 400 degrees and laid my cast iron grill over two stove top burners to heat. Once hot, I brushed the surface with olive oil and placed on the Branzino, patted dry and seasoned, along with two single portions of seasoned salmon. I let each side brown nicely enough to leave grill marks, then placed the entire cast iron grill into the 400 degree oven for  final cooking of five or six minutes.

Branzino and salmon on cast iron skillet
Branzino and salmon on cast iron grill

Cooking fish, like beef, lamb, poultry or pork, with the skin and bones intact produces more flavor and juiciness. Some people don’t like seeing a fish head or tail. I think it’s part of the natural beauty of the dish. It’s easy enough to remove the skin and bones of Branzino. (I enjoy the flavor and crispiness of the skin.) To remove the bones, start by plating the fish. It’s ok if the head and tail hang over the edges of the plate. Cut them off and tuck those pieces away for nibbling.

Next, I run my knife right down the center of the fish, feeling my way along the bone and gently pushing off the flesh to either side. The flesh on one side will be free of bones. On the other side, there will still be some bones to navigate.

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Fileting Branzino, first side

The flesh separates easily from the bone.

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The flesh near my knife is nearly boneless.

Once I am done filleting that side of the fish, I simply pick up the center bone/spine and remove it. (There is still good nibbling on this, too.)

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Pulling out spine.

I didn’t take off the tail before removing the spine. It was filled with plenty of flesh to enjoy. And what’s left underneath the bone are two lovely filets.

 

 

 

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I have had this fish stuffed with herbs and garlic and roasted as well. To me, it tastes best when it is simply grilled and then finished in the oven. So easy and flavorful. A spritz of fresh lemon juice brightens the delicate flavor of the fish.

 

ShopFreshSeafood.com delivers fresh seafood directly to consumers. The website offers a range of seafood from North American and Canadian waters in addition to the Branzino from Greece. Customizable packages are available. The business is located in the New Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx, NY and ships nationally.

Fruit Juices to Keep Colds Away

The folks at Omega Juicers, the ultimate work-horse for serious fans of fruit, vegetable and herb juices, have some cold weather recipes to boost immune systems and ward off cold and flu viruses. While berries are out of season for many, it’s fine to use the frozen variety.

Very Berry Blueberry Juice
Very Berry Blueberry Juice

Very Berry Blueberry Juice

Health Benefits:  Blueberries contain antioxidants such as vitamin A, vitamin B complex, vitamin C, vitamin E, anthocyanin, iron, zinc, copper and selenium.  So with these “shields” you are helping to enhance your body’s immune system.  With a healthy immune system, you can help to ward off illnesses such as colds and the flu.

Ingredients:

2 cups Blueberries
2 Kiwis
10-15 Strawberries
1 cup of Mint leaves

Directions: Wash all produce well. Cut produce to fit into the hopper. Juice in an Omega juicer. Serve and Enjoy!

Carrot Juice
Carrot Juice

Carrot Juice

Health Benefits: Carrots contain high-levels of beta carotene, which is a powerful nutrient that boosts the immune system’s production of infection-fighting natural killer cells and T cells.  These cells are healthy and attack and kill off disease-ridden microbes.

Ingredients:

5 Medium Sized Carrots

½ Lemon

¼ Lime

12 Green Grapes

Directions: Wash all produce well. Cut the carrots, lemon, lime and grapes to fit in the hopper. Juice in an Omega juicer. Serve and Enjoy!

 

Green Juice
Green Juice

Green Machine Kale Juice

Health Benefits:  Raw kale is one of the best sources of vitamin C, important for protection against immune system deficiency.  Each 100 gram serving of raw kale includes about 120 mg of vitamin C, well over the recommended dietary amounts for men (90 mg) and women (75 mg).

Ingredients:

1 cucumber

4 celery stalks

2 apples

6-8 leaves kale

1/2 lemon

1 tbsp ginger

Directions: Wash all produce well. Cut produce to fit into the hopper. Juice in an Omega juicer. Pour over Ice or refrigerate until cold (optional). Enjoy!

Omega Juicer VRT400
Omega Juicer VRT400

Featured Recipe: Rubbed Kale with Butternut Squash

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On October 2 of this year, kale enthusiasts across the nation celebrated the first, albeit unofficial, “National Kale Day.”  Although jokesters have had a hearty guffaw about the Change.org petition currently making the social media rounds in an effort to elevate kale day to the level of official holiday, there’s actually a good reason for kale’s devoted fan base.  As far as super foods go, kale is king.  Packed with nutrients – protein, vitamin C, vitamin K, iron and fiber, kale can help prevent a range of health conditions from type 2 diabetes to heart disease.

While kale is a fabulous addition to smoothies, soups and salads or in a simply stir fry with garlic and olive oil, here’s a delicious approach to enjoying this green powerhouse with sweet winter squash provided by Terry Paulding of Paulding & Co., a cooking school in Emeryville, CA.   The toothsome quality of kale paired with the luxurious creaminess of butternut squash makes this recipe a winner.  (While I left out the cilantro when I prepared it, the result was still delicious and full of flavor and an assertive punch.)  The bright orange squash against the intensely green leaves brought a beautiful color dimension to my table.  And with holiday fare often being neutral in flavor (and color), this dish is likely to succeed on a number of levels.

Yield: 12-15 servings

1 butternut squash, about 3 lbs. (also great with Red Kuri squash if you can find it, or kabocha squash, neither of which have to be peeled)

2 Tbs.  extra-virgin olive oil

salt & freshly ground pepper

1 bunch very fresh kale

2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

Sauce:

1/8 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

1/8 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley leaves

1 large garlic clove, minced

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2  teaspoon ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste

salt to taste

2-3 Tbs. fresh squeezed lemon juice

Preparation: 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Top and tail the squash, halve it crosswise, put each piece flat-side down on the cutting board, and peel with a sharp chef’s knife. Remove the seeds with a spoon, and cut the squash into 1-inch cubes.  Place in a large bowl, toss with the 2 tablespoons olive oil and season lightly with salt & freshly ground pepper. Spread on a parchment-paper covered sheet pan. Roast 20-25 minutes, until the squash is tender and starting to brown.

While the squash roasts, strip the kale from it’s ribs (easy to do by just running your fingers along the rib on both sides, bottom to top), wash it well, and cut into fine ribbons. Mix with the olive oil in a large bowl, and rub and massage the kale until it softens, about 2 minutes.

Make the sauce by combining the ingredients in the food processor. Pulse to puree to a sauce consistency. Combine with the softened kale.

Toss the hot squash with the sauce and kale, and serve. One of the beauties of this dish is that it is still delicious served warm or cold and still wonderful the next day.

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Recipe provided by: 

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Founded by mother-daughter duo Terry and Tracy Paulding, Paulding & Co. specializes in creating innovative event ideas for families and corporate entities through public cooking classes and exercises.

Contact: 

Terry Paulding

terry@pauldingandco.com

1410 D 62nd Street, Emeryville, CA 94608

(510) 594-1104

Bibi’z Restaurant Celebrates Fruit and Flowers with Organic Cocktails

(L to R): Bibi'z Blossom, White Peach Sangria and Skinny Karma - Rita
(L to R): Bibi’z Blossom, White Peach Sangria and Skinny Karma – Rita

Refreshing summer cocktails tease and tickle the palate, particularly those served at Bibi’z Restaurant|Lounge when fragrant summer fruits and herbs combine to create earthy, floral and herbaceous notes.  Bibi’z Blossom, a flowery, feminine and seductive libation, blends St. Germain Elderflower liqueur and whole Australian hibiscus flower preserved in raspberry and rhubarb-infused simple syrup, is the quintessential feminine summer cocktail.

The delicate Hibiscus blossom is edible, and floats seductively in a soft pink hued combination of organic fruit juice, vodka, liqueur and a splash of lemon-lime soda.   The taste and fragrance of handpicked elderflowers married with Australian hibiscus provides earthy, herby undertones that add delicate balance to the sweetness of organic fruit juice and fruit-imbued citrus soda.

“Summer cocktails are in a class by themselves and give the mixologist an opportunity to bring color, taste, fragrance and vibe together in one elegant, refreshing libation,” said Ida Assaf, founder of Bibi’z Restaurant|Lounge.  “The Bibi’z Blossom is so classy and feminine, melding delicious flavor combinations with pear-flavored vodka to whimsically celebrate the spirit and true flavors of summer.”

White Peach Sangria is another classic summer bar favorite, perfect for both men and women wanting refreshing fruitiness and the bracing qualities of an iced cocktail.  This versatile sangria is delightful when sipped before dinner or paired with a variety of grilled proteins like fish, beef or chicken.

White Peach Sangria marries delicate sparkling wine such prosecco, moscato or cava with organic ginger ale, freshly squeezed orange juice and bite-size chunks of organic summer fruits, whether stone fruit or berries, creating a drink that is cooling, delicious and bright with citrus and fruity notes,” explained Assaf.  “White Peach Sangria is a versatile, elegant concoction and delights the palate with tiny bubbles, muddled fruit and a hint of peach schnapps for sweetness.  It offers thirst-quenching deliciousness that compliments nibbles, salads as well as hearty grilled fare.”

The Skinny Karma – Rita is a delicious, low-calorie (70 calories) play on the classic margarita using Karma Natural Tequila, Agave Nectar and fresh lime juice.  The delicate flavors are balanced by a salt kissed martini glass rim.

Skinny Karma – Rita is light, refreshing with a subtle sweetness thanks to agave, a natural Mexican sweetener with low sugar input,” explained Assaf.  “Weighing in at a mere 70 calories, the Skinny Karma – Rita is a guilt – free pleasure.”

Bibi’z Blossom

A celebration of flower blossoms and seductive wild hibiscus

2 oz. Absolut pear vodka

1 oz. St. Germain elderflower liqueur

½ oz. organic apple juice

Splash of cranberry juice

Splash of lemon-lime soda

Garnish with 1 wild hibiscus flower in syrup

Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass.

White Peach Sangria

A refreshing, easy-to-drink and versatile cocktail for warmer weather

2 oz. sparkling prosecco, moscato or cava

1 oz. fresh orange juice

½ oz. crème de peche or peach schnapps

Strong spritz of organic ginger ale

Splash of Aperol or Campari

Garnish with your favorite chopped organic fruits

Add ingredients to tall glass of ice, stir.

 

Skinny Karma – Rita

A thirst – quenching and low cal cocktail  

1.5 oz. Karma Natural Tequila

2 heavy dashes of Agave Nectar

Juice of ½ lime

Splash of sour mix

Splash of Triple Sec

Shake well over ice, pour into martini glass with salted rim and serve with a piece of fresh lime.

 

About Bibi’z Restaurant and Lounge

Founded by Ida Assaf in 2011, Bibi’z offers global American fare with a Mediterranean twist.  Located at 284 Center Avenue in Westwood, NJ, Bibi’z is open Tuesday-Thursday from 12:00-10:00PM, Friday and Saturday from 12:00PM – 11:00PM and Sunday 11:00AM – 9:00PM.  Bibi’z bar is open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.  Happy hour is offered six days a week from 3:00-6:00PM.  Catering and private dining facilities are available.   Bibi’z offers soul-satisfying food in healthy renditions, much of it locally sourced, along with top shelf organic and conventional spirits, wine, and beer.

Bibi’z also offers “Girls Night Out” every Thursday with happy hour drinks all night long in the dining room and lounge.  For more information, please call (201) 722-8600 or visit www.bibizlounge.com.

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Blackberry Galette From Kathleen King, Tate’s Bake Shop

Blackberry Galette
Blackberry Galette

When all the local farm stands are stocked with big baskets of berries and my garden’s bushes are weighed down with plump juicy berries, I can’t resist baking with them. I love the way blackberries cook up and hold their shape, with their sweet/tart taste.

Summer’s heat requires simple recipes that yield delicious results without too much effort. Galettes are just the ticket for hot summer afternoons when blackberries beg to be baked with minimal fuss. This rustic version of a pie involves rolled out dough with a mound of slightly sweetened fruit heaped in the center and a sturdy crust folded around it to encase its perimeter. Here’s a delightful recipe for Blackberry Galette from Kathleen King, the founder of Tate’s Bake Shop located in the Hamptons and author of the recipe book, Baking For Friends. The cookbook includes over 120 simple and scrumptious recipes that lend themselves perfectly to baking in all four seasons.

Tate's Baking For Friends Recipe Book By Kathleen King
Tate’s Baking For Friends Recipe Book By Kathleen King
Kathleen King With Some Of Her Tasty Treats
Kathleen King With Some Of Her Tasty Treats

Blackberry Galette
Makes 4 to 6 servings

Dough
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling the dough
1/3-cup fine yellow cornmeal (not coarse cornmeal or polenta)
1-tablespoon sugar
1Ž4 tablespoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold salted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons cold water

Filling
1 teaspoon unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups fresh blackberries
3 tablespoons sugar
1-tablespoon cold salted butter, cut into small pieces
1-tablespoon sugar for sprinkling (optional)

1. To make the dough: In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt. Work in the butter with a pastry blender, 2 knives, or your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse meal with some small pea-sized pieces of butter. In a small bowl, mix together the egg yolk and water. Add to the flour mixture and stir gently with a fork until the mixture is moist enough to hold together.
2. Gather the dough into a thick disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled but not hard, at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 hours. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days, but let it stand for 15 minutes before rolling out. It can also be frozen for up to 1 month.)
3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
4. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough out into a 10-inch round about 1/8 inch thick. Fold the dough in half, and then reopen on the prepared baking sheet. The dough cracks easily, but just press it back together if it does, and don’t worry, as the look of this dessert is very rustic.
5. For the filling: Sprinkle the 1-teaspoon flour over the dough leaving a 2-inch border all around. Spread the berries over the floured section of the dough. Sprinkle them with the sugar and dot with the butter. Fold the uncovered dough up over fruit, pleating it as necessary. If the dough cracks, not to worry—just seal the tears. If you wish, brush the edges of the dough with a pastry brush dipped in water and sprinkle with the tablespoon of sugar.
6. Bake until the crust starts to brown a bit and the fruit bubbles, about 40 minutes. Let the galette cool on the baking sheet. Transfer the galette to a serving platter with a wide spatula or pick up the baking mat and slide it off onto the platter. Serve room temp or warm with freshly whipped cream or your favorite vanilla alongside.

Fresh Blackberries
Fresh Blackberries